1. Withdrawing from the Word and daily prayer
When trials are high and our spirits are low it's tempting to shut ourselves off from the things we need the most. At times we are numbed by pain, we reach our stress threshold and our hearts grow hard. We become apathetic.
We may question the will of God, wondering why it is that we are faced with this raw ordeal, perhaps feeling as if God has betrayed us by allowing for us to endure such strain. What we are going through is not God's expression of His disdain. We don't know why these are His plans for us, but we do know that they were made for us in love.
It is onto our loving Father that we must cast our burdens, seeking Him in prayer, asking for His mercy and grace, that He may equip us with the strength needed to glorify Him.
It's important too, that we sit down with our bibles and read. Read when we don't feel like it, read when we're too tired, read when we feel we can't.
It is now that we need to be adorned in the full armour of God, and we will not find it in the TV series we are binge-watching in bed. We need to be disciplined. If we desire our conflict resolution more than Christ, there is a problem.
2. Isolating ourselves socially
As it is easy to drop our bibles by the wayside, so too is it to jump off the social bandwagon.
Sometimes when we are under strain we appreciate the comfort and distraction of company, other times we feel as though we don't have the stamina to make a social appearance. We simply wish to curl up in to an antisocial ball and hide.
There is nothing wrong with spending time alone, in fact, it is good for us, but when we stop communicating with our friends and become islands floating in sorrow, it is not.
Isolating ourselves from those who can give vital encouragement and wise counsel can be likened to self-destructive behaviour. If we were struggling at sea we would not shy away from the lifesaver, we would cling to it desperately and let it bring us back to shore.
When we find ourselves knee deep in despair, company may be just what we need, but we pretend that we are too this or too that to fellowship. We need to reply to that text, meet that friend for coffee or go to that event.
Being a part of the body of Christ requires us to be vulnerable with others, sharing our burdens and our need for prayer.
If we are not open and honest about our struggles, how are others to know of our need for support and prayer? How are we to receive encouragement by hearing they too know the plight of disappointment and fear?
3. Growing bitter and resentful
Nobody's heart is immune to bitterness. It sneaks up on us like age and grows like a creeper on steroids. We resent our circumstance and begrudge the world for not stopping and running to our aid. We're angered that she wasn't there when we needed her. We're angered that he stabbed us in the back when we were already bleeding.
We need to call a team meeting with our pride and humility and explain that every other poor old pilgrim is just as sinful as us, and that they will fail us. We are people, a sinful race, living in the world, a fallen place. But the disgrace that they bring to us in their life time has nothing on that which we will bring the Lord today.
Will He fold His arms, roll His eyes and think mean thoughts, telling Himself that He deserves better? No. He will forgive us our every transgression and pour His mercy and love upon us abundantly. We are to humble ourselves in the midst of our hardship and to have grace for those who offend us.
4. Seeking comfort in the world before Christ
It is into the open arms of Christ we ought to run when we can't fathom another moment of this brutal reality. We can run to our vices, but we cannot hide. Our feelings will always find us. And Christ will always be our Comforter.
Before you burn the TV or bury the chocolate next to the cat, it's ok to enjoy things. God has allowed for us to find pleasure in the things in this world. But it's about where we find it and why we are find it comforting.
Is it because we're using avoidance behaviour and hiding from issues that we don't wish to confront? Or are we just enjoying watching a Robert DeNiro movie with good friends?
5. Falling in to the abyss of morbid introspection and forgetting others
It is all too easy to become consumed by our turmoil. When we are constantly dwelling on our thoughts, feelings and emotions, we take our eyes off Christ and are overwhelmed by the weight of our burdens. We forget that it is possible to go on, because of His grace for us.
Falling into self-pity always leads to more suffering. It amplifies our sadness and stress and prevents us from serving others.
Having our eyes cast inward, we blind ourselves to the needs of others. We are deceived by the notion that our suffering is greater than those around us and that our neighbours aren't struggling too.
We will find that there is much joy to be found in serving and encouraging others and that though we are a mess, He is using us still.
Scarlett Jones resides by the seaside and loves reading, films, craft and quality time with friends and family.
Scarlett Jones' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/scarlett-jones.html